India, Nepal to review 1950 treaty, tackle floods jointly (Roundup)

September 16th, 2008 - 11:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) In a major step to redefine their age-old ties, India and Nepal have agreed to revise the 58-year-old Peace and Friendship Treaty and New Delhi announced around $5 million for flood victims in the neighbouring country. The two countries agreed to tackle common problems jointly like floods and border crimes and activate bilateral mechanisms across a broad spectrum of areas, including trade and commerce security and flood management.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters Tuesday that a high-level committee headed by the foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet soon to review the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty.

The issue figured prominently in discussions Monday between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Nepali counterpart Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda.

Besides foreign-secretary level talks to review the 1950 treaty, home secretaries, commerce secretaries and top officials of water resources department will be meeting to address bilateral issues.

Terming Prachanda’s maiden visit to India as prime minister as “very successful and productive”, Menon spoke about the need to bring “unique and special” ties in tune with changes in both countries.

Menon, however, tried to sidestep a question on anxieties among sections in the Indian establishment about Prachanda’s visit to Beijing last month, which some interpreted as a sign of Nepal’s pro-China tilt. “Whatever Nepal’s relations with other countries are is Nepal’s business,” he said.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav also underscored the need to give a contemporary complexion to India-Nepal ties and said the two countries are hopeful of finalizing and signing an extradition treaty soon.

“Time has changed. We have to upgrade, revise and rethink the treaty in order to make friendship of both countries stronger,” Yadav said at a separate press briefing.

“If the need be, we will replace it with a new one,” Yadav said while clarifying that Kathmandu has yet to give a draft of a revised treaty to New Delhi. He also declined to be specific about which parts of the 1950 treaty Nepal would like to revise.

Prachanda was scheduled to address the press conference, but as he could not come due to last-minute engagements, Yadav projected Nepal’s perspective on relations under the new Maoist dispensation in Kathmandu.

A joint statement capturing these emerging strands in bilateral ties will be issued Wednesday, Yadav said.

The two countries also plan to hold talks on border and security issues soon so that the porous border is not used for criminal activities, drugs trafficking and terrorism, Yadav said.

The revision of the friendship treaty is likely to give Kathmandu greater freedom in military purchases and improve those areas perceived to be unequal by Kathmandu. Yadav, however, parried questions on this contentious issue, saying: “It’s not a question of being equal or unequal.

The two countries have also agreed to adopt an integrated approach to flood management with Yadav underscoring the need to find a “permanent solution” to the flood problem. Manmohan Singh has pledged Rs.200 million (around $5 million) million for immediate relief to help flood victims in Nepal, Menon said.

The two countries have set up a new mechanism on water resources, floods and hydropower generation. Officials of the two sides will also hold technical discussions on repair of embankments along the Kosi river.

Earlier, while addressing a meeting of the Nepal-India Parliamentary Forum at the residence of Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav, Prachanda said he wanted India to help build hydro power projects and railway lines in Nepal.

“We have set a target of generating 10,000 MW of electricity through new hydro power projects in the next 10 years. India will have to help us. We will help India in fulfilling its energy requirements,” he said.

“We want India to construct a railway line in the Terai region of Nepal that would prove instrumental in the economic transformation of the country,” the Maoist prime minister said.

He also met CPI-M leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury and discussed bilateral relations between India and Nepal as well as the peace process in the former Himalayan kingdom.

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